Not everyone is feeling the Army’s new hair ban, which some say targets the various hair styles worn by African-American women. Now member of the Congressional Black Caucus have taken issue with the ban as well.
16 women in the Congressional Black Caucus sent Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel a letter expressing their objection to the Army’s Regulation 670-1, which highlights new rules in regards to tattoos, hairstyles, uniforms and grooming.
The new rules in regards to hair bans twists, dreadlocks, multiple braids and cornrows that are bigger than a quarter of an inch. Army spokesman Paul Prince told the Army Times that twists and dreadlocks have been barred since 2005, but these regulations go into more detail about specific hairstyles.
Here’s the letter from the women of the CBC:
Though we understand the intent of the updated regulation is to ensure uniformity in our military, it is seen as discriminatory rules targeting soldiers who are women of color with little regard to what is needed to maintain their natural hair.
African American women have often been required to meet unreasonable norms as it relates to acceptable standards of grooming in the workplace. […]
Army officials have responded to criticism of the regulation by saying it applies to all soldiers regardless of race, and that they are meant to protect their safety. However the use of words like “unkempt” and “matted” when referring to traditional hairstyles worn by women of color are offensive and biased. The assumption that individuals wearing these hairstyles cannot maintain them in a way that meets the professionalism of Army standards indicates a lack of cultural sensitivity conducive to creating a tolerant environment for minorities.
In regards to the new rules, Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs of the Georgia National Guard started a petition on the White House website calling on the Army to “allow professional ethnic hairstyles.” It currently has about 15,000 signatures.
Jacobs also told the Army Times that twists are a popular style, especially in the field because they’re easy to take care of.
“I’ve been in the military six years, I’ve had my hair natural four years, and it’s never been out of regulation. It’s never interfered with my head gear,” added Jacobs, who wears her hair in two twists.
Although some people are of the notion that when you join the Army, you become “theirs and you do as they say”, others feel as though if you’re willing to die for a country and go to battle, the least of their worries should be if your twists are not under regulation.